deed

911 Mercer Street.

This house is not within the bounds of East Wilson Historic District. However, the blocks of Mercer Street southwest of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad lines have been an African-American residential area since the early twentieth century.

As a result of infill building, this house appears to have been numbered 111, then 909, then 909 1/2, then 911 Mercer. Now heavily modified from its original appearance, 911 Mercer Street was held by the family of John H. and Cornelia Barnes Tillery for nearly 90 years.

On 27 December 1915, John Tillery paid Samuel H. and Annie M. Vick $300 for Lot No. 22 Mercer Street, as shown on the plat map of Winona suburb.

Deed book 102, page 567, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 111 Mercer, owned free and clear, John Tillery, 47, office janitor; wife Cornelia, 35; and children Ernest, 13, Ashley, 8, Jessie, 12, Raymond, 6, Adelia, 4, and Lanford, 1.

In the 1920 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c) lab h Mercer nr N S R R

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c) lab h 909 Mercer

Detail of Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., page 33, 1922.

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c) emp city h 909 Mercer. Also, Tillery Ernest (c) farmer h 909 Mercer

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c; Cornelia) farmer h 909 Mercer. Also, Tillery Ernest (c) farmer h 909 Mercer, and Tillery Raymond (c) lab 909 Mercer

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 909 Mercer, owned and valued at $1500, John Tillery, 51, farmer; wife Conielia, 45; and children Jessie, 20, family cook, Ashley L., 18, truck farm helper, Raymond, 16, truck farm helper, Adelia, 14, house maid, Johny L., 11, Elnora, 7, and Clyde, 5. 

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John H (c; Cornelia) lab 909 1/2 Mercer. Also listed at 909 1/2 Mercer: Adelia, cook; Ashley L., laborer; Jessie, cook; and Raymond Tillery, laborer.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 911 Mercer, owned and valued at $1200, John H. Tillery, 66, “hires out and plows”; wife Cornelia, 56, redrying plant stemmer; children Nelora, 17, and Clyde Tillery, 15, “cleans up yards,” and Jessie Williams, 30, cleans and cooks in private home; and granddaughters Alice Rosabelle, 4, and Barbara Anna, 2.

In 1940, Clyde Tillery registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 16 October 1926 in Wilson; lived at 911 Mercer Street; his contact was father John Tillery; and he was unemployed.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery Cornelia (c; 2) h 911 Mercer

Wilson Daily Times, 23 November 1945. 

In the 1947 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Tillery John (c; 2) h 911 Mercer

In the 1950 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 911 Mercer, John H. Tillery, 68; wife Cornelia, 62, plows gardens at private homes; daughter Jesse B. Williams, 41; and granddaughter Magnolia Williams, 7.

John Tillery died 8 October 1960 at Barnes Rest Home, 626 East Vance Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 18 December 1883 in Halifax County, N.C., to Benjamin and Cherry Tillery; was married to Carnelia B. Tillery; and worked as a city employee. Ashley Tillery, Williamston, N.C., was informant.

Cornelia Barnes Tillery died 6 June 1964 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 80 years old; was born in Edgecombe County, N.C., to Aaron Barnes and Pennina [maiden name unknown]; was widowed; and lived at 911 Mercer Street. Ashley Tillery was informant.

In March 1973, Wilson City Council ordered the demolition of the dwelling at 911 Mercer Street. May 1983, the Wilson building inspector’s office issued Ashley Tiller a permit to demolish a single family dwelling at 911 Mercer. However, when Clyde Tillery died in May 1997, his obituary noted his address as 911 Mercer. 

In October 2004, 911 Mercer Street was listed for foreclosure sale. Details of the notice reveal that the Tillery heirs had mortgaged the property to a real estate company in 1986 and had defaulted on the loan.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2022.

Calvin Blount’s first land purchase.

In his 1909 will, Calvin Blount left to his “sons Wright Blount and Tillman Blount, whom I have not heard from in many years” a one-acre lot “on the edge of the Town of Wilson, State and County aforesaid, adjoining the lands of G.W. Sugg, Cater Sugg, and the Colored Cemetery….”

Blount had purchased that small lot in January 1867, less than a year after he was emancipated. He paid Richard Hines Blount, who was likely his former owner and a blood relative, $50 for the parcel, which was located just south and west of present-day Hines and Pender Streets.

Deed book 2, page 182, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. 

 

A mule named Rody, twelve acres of cotton, and a Hackney-made buggy: miscellaneous transactions, no. 2.

Most “deed” books stacked in the search room of the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office contain just deeds, but others, like Volume 72, contain miscellaneous records of sales agreements, leases, contracts, chattel mortgages, and other transactions. These documents offer rare glimpses of the commercial and farming lives of Black Wilsonians.

  • On 2 February 1907, John Artis and A.P. Branch agreed that Branch would advance Artis forty (up to fifty) dollars in supplies in order for Artis to make a crop on  in exchange for a lien on land in Black Creek township owned by and rented from Nathan Bass and on which Artis resided. In return, Artis agreed to cultivate and harvest twelve acres in cotton, nine in corn, and four in tobacco, and gave a lien not only on those crops, but on a seven year-old black mare mule named Rody; a buggy and harness; an iron axle cart; and all his farm implements. Deed Book 72, page 191.
  • On 25 February 1907, R.E. Hagan leased to Richard Renfrow, Charles S. Thomas, and Andrew Pierce for $8.00 per week “One Certain Outfit for Barber’s Shop,” consisting of five hydraulic barber’s chairs, twelve sitting chairs, one table, one bootblack stand, one barber’s pole, one mug case, five chairs, combination cabinet with mirrors, five towel jars, one complete wash stand, window curtains, and other furniture and furnishings in Renfrow, Thomas, and Pierce’s shop on Nash Street in a building owned by Hagan. Renfrow, Thomas, and Pierce further agreed to pay all taxes on the property and insure it against fire to the value of $700. After 215 weeks of payments, Renfrow, Thomas, and Pierce had the option to purchase the property for $912. Deed Book 72, page 195.
  • On 24 December 1906, Neverson Green agreed to purchase a #10 Computing Scale from The J.H. Parker Co. of Richmond, Virginia, for $57.50 payable in installments. Deed Book 72, page 205.
  • On 6 December 1907, to secure a debt of $3500, James White and George W. Suggs gave Samuel H. Vick a mortgage on 13 sets of single harnesses; three sets of double harnesses; five winter buggy robes; ten summer robes; one clipping machine; one roomer top desk; one iron safe; one saddle; one roan horse; four gray horses; two black horses; one bay horse named George; three bay mares; one brown horse; one sorrel horse; two double surries; one double carriage; four steel tire buggies; five rubber tire buggies; one drummers wagon; two runabout buggies; one single wagon; and one spring wagon. The loan was satisfied and discharged on 19 February 1908. Deed Book 72, page 249.
  • On 6 November 1907, H.G. Whitehead agreed to sell to Samuel H. Vick “an outlet through the lands of Silas Lucas and the said H.G. Whitehead” near Wilson’s corporate limits on both sides of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad at the extension of Warren Street, as well as another outlet at a place to be determined. Deed Book 72, page 249.
  • On 1 December 1907, to secure a debt of $712, James Hardy gave Samuel H. Vick a mortgage on one set of wagon harnesses; one wagon; one gray horse; one horse named George; one sorrel horse; one surrey horse; one surrey; one top buggy, Hackney make; three sets of harnesses; two buggy robes; one wagon pole; one set of double harnesses; and one buggy pole. Vick had sold this property to Hardy for use in a livery stable in the Town of Wilson. Deed Book 72, page 250.

George and Ella Green and the development of East Green Street, pt. 1.

By the late 1800s, the area of present-day Green Street east of the railroad tracks — largely farmland — was held by a handful of large landowners, notably George D. and Ella M. Green and Frank I. and Annie Finch. We’ve seen here how the Samuel H. and Annie Washington Vick sold parcels in the 600 block to their friends and family to solidify a middle-class residential district for African-Americans. The Vicks themselves bought fifteen acres from the Greens, which they later divided into the lots they sold to others.

These transactions disclose more early settlers on East Green:

  • On 20 July 1887, for $250, George D. and Ella M. Green, as trustees for F.I. and Annie Finch, sold Leah Battle a one-third acre lot at Green and Pender Streets near Mrs. Procise. The deed was registered 3 January 1889 in Deed Book 27, page 85.
  • On 31 December 1890, for $150, George D. and Ella M. Green sold Short Barnes a one-fourth acre lot on “the  extension of Green Street near the corporate limits of Wilson” adjoining George Green and J.M.F. Bridgers. The deed was registered 1 January 1891 in Deed Book 29, page 150. [Barnes’ house was at 616 East Green.]
  • On 24 February 1891, for $300, George D. and Ella M. Green sold Samuel H. Vick “a lot on the extension of Green Street near the corporate line of Wilson” next to a lot now occupied by Alex Barnes. The lot was irregularly shaped and measured about one and one-half acres. The deed was registered 23 February 1891 in Deed Book 29, page 396.
  • On 24 October 1890, for $150, George D. and Ella M. Green sold Lewis Battle and his wife Jemima a one and one-quarter acre lot fronting on Green Street and adjacent to J.W.F. Bridgers, Samuel H. Vick, and G.D. Green. The deed was registered 21 March 1891 in Deed Book 29, page 488.
  • On 11 December 1891, for $1300.75, George D. and Emma M. Green sold Samuel H. Vick a parcel containing 13 and three-quarter acres adjacent to Sallie Lipscombe’s property, Vance Street, F.I. Finch, G.D. Green, and Samuel H. Vick. The deed was registered 28 December 1891 in Deed Book 30, page 454.

Detail of T.M. Fowler’s 1908 bird’s eye map of Wilson. Green Street slices diagonally across the frame. Samuel H. and Annie Vick’s new multi-gabled mansion is at (1). The church he helped establish, Calvary Presbyterian, is at the corner of Green and Pender at (2). At (3), Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church, which bought its lot from the Vicks. At (4), the original location of Piney Grove Free Will Baptist Church. 

The sales of Lucy, Betty, Mingo, Venus, Phelda, Cathrin, Redeemed, Easter, Sarah, Caesar, Washington, Gatsey, Jerry, Matilda and her children, Eliza, and Cherry.

More evidence from Wilson County’s earliest deed books of the sale, trade, or transfer of enslaved people:

  • On 11 December 1855, John Gardner of Wilson County conveyed to Thomas Gardner of Wilson County, in trust, a 206-acre tract of land in Wilson County, various farm animals, a buggy, a wagon, four carts, “two Negro women Lucy and Betty,” furniture, a cotton gin, a man’s saddle, and a double-barrel gun. If John Gardner timely paid William D. Petway a $1000 debt, the conveyance was void. Otherwise, the property listed would be sold at auction. Deed Book 1, Page 100, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 24 July 1854, Thomas Hadley of Wayne County, North Carolina, in consideration for “love & affection,” gave his daughter Martha Amanda Rountree, wife of Willie Rountree of Wilson County, “one negro man by the name of Mingo one negro Woman by the name of Venus one negro girl by the name of Phelda & one negro girl by the name of Cathrin.” Deed Book 1, Page 115, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 7 June 1849, Henry Brinkley of Pitt County, North Carolina, conveyed to Thomas Felton of Edgecombe [later Wilson] County, North Carolina, a 329-acre parcel of land in Edgecombe County on which Brinkley formerly resided, a 65-acre tract Brinkley inherited from Abram Brinkley, “slaves Redeemed, Easter, Sarah, Caesar, Washington, Gatsey and Jerry,” various animals and farm implements, his “interest in the right of his wife in Estate of Ollison Knox,” and other assets to secure a debt. This conveyance was filed in Book 24, Page 661, Edgecombe County Register of Deeds. “Whereas the said Henry Brinkley has paid off and discharged all or a considerable portion of the debt … by the sale of two of the slaves and otherwise,” Felton returned to Brinkley his remaining property on 7 December 1855. Deed Book 1, Page 120, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 19 May 1856, Mary P. Battle of Orange County, North Carolina, for $300 paid by Margaret H. Battle, wife of Amos J. Battle, conveyed to James Davis in trust an enslaved woman named Matilda and all her children except the oldest, Eliza. Matilda and children were in the possession of Margaret H. Battle, and Battle was to retain the right to the “use” during her lifetime and, after her death, such right passed to Margaret Battle’s children. [Matilda was one of several enslaved people Margaret Battle had inherited from her father Weeks Parker of Edgecombe County.] Deed Book 1, Page 184, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.
  • On 4 June 1856, Jane B. Hamlet of Wilson County conveyed to John Farmer of Wilson County a 27 year-old enslaved woman named Cherry, a wagon, and two horses to secure a debt in the amount of $520. If Hamlet timely repaid Farmer the debt, the conveyance was void. Deed Book 1, Page 185, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

Green Lassiter buys land in 1855.

Green Lassiter, a free man of color, bought just over fifty acres from William L. Farmer in December 1855 and registered the deed for his purchase about six weeks later. Wilson County formed in 1855, and this is the first registered purchase of real property by a free person of color in the county. (The land Lassiter bought just north of the town of Wilson had been in Edgecombe County before Wilson County was established, and certainly free people of color had owned land — though they did not often register their deeds — in the parts of Edgecombe, Nash, Wayne, and Johnston Counties that later formed Wilson County.)

Lassiter had a close business relationship with William L. Farmer (who had been the administrator of Green’s father Hardy Lassiter‘s estate), and Farmer’s 1856 estate records show that he had extended Lassiter a number of small loans. 

Deed book 1, page 123, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

This Indenture made the 22nd day of December A.D. 1855 between Wm. L. Farmer of the first part & Green Lassiter of the second part all the county of Wilson State of North Carolina witnesseth that for and in consideration of the sum of Four Hundred Dollars the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged that said Wm. L. Farmer has given granted bargained sold & conveyed & by these presents does give grant bargain sell & convey unto the said Green Lassiter his heirs & assigns a certain tract or parcel of land lying in the County of Wilson adjoining the lands of Watson Rountree Washington Ruffin & others containing fifty & a half acres more or less to have & to hold the said Land with the said Green Lassiter his heirs & assigns and the said Wm. L. Farmer does hereby covenant & agree to for himself & his heirs executors & administrators to forever covenant & defend the title hereby conveyed to the said Green Lassiter his heirs & assigns forever In testimony whereof we hereunto set our hands & seals this the day & date above written       W.L. Farmer {seal}

Witness  Isaiah Farmer

Wilson County Feb 5th 1856 The Execution of the foregoing Deed is duly proven by the oat of Isaiah Farmer before me W. Barnes Clerk let it be Registered   W. Barnes Clerk

Received for registration this foregoing Deed the 6th day of Feb 1856  L.T. Sauls Registrar

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In the 1850 census of Edgecombe County: Hardy Laster, 73, wife Beady, 54, and children Mathew, 26, Silas, 26, Green, 25, Hardy, 21, and Rachel, 20; all described as mulatto. Hardy reported owning $650 of real property.

In the 1860 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Green Lassiter, 36, farmer, and his siblings Mary Lassiter, 24, Matthew Lassiter, 37, and Rachel Lassiter, 30, farm laborers. Green reported $750 in real estate.

Green Lassiter married Mary Ann Powell on 19 January 1860 in Wilson County at Dempsey Powell‘s residence. 

In the 1870 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farm laborer Green Lassiter, 46; wife Mary, 31; and children Henry, 10, Sallie, 8, Hardy, 6, and John G., 1 month. Lassiter reported owning $500 in real property and $125 in personal property.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: farmer Green Lassiter, 55; wife Mary Ann, 42; and children Henry, 19, Sally Ann, 17, Hardy, 15, John Green, 10, Dempsey S., 5, and Mary C., 2.

Mary Mercer died 27 February 1912 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 31 years old; was born in Wilson County to Green Lester and Mary Powell; was married; and engaged in domestic work. Beadie Blackwell was informant.

Hardy Lassiter died 24 June 1928 in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas. Per his death certificate, he was 55 years old; was born in Wilson, N.C., to Green Lassiter; lived at 1601 Texas, Pine Bluff; was a laborer at a heading factory; and was married. Julius Lassiter was informant.

Dempsey Lassiter died 17 July 1946 at his home at 106 South East Street, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 68 years old; was born in Wilson County to Green Lassiter and Mary Ann Powell; was engaged in farming; was married to Mary J. Lassiter; and was buried in Rountree [actually Odd Fellows] Cemetery.

Zion Hall buys a lot.

Deed book 68, page 311, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office. 

On 2 January 1905, Orren and Hancy Best sold Caesar Moses and James Watson, trustees of Zion Hall No. 5952, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, a 48 by 48-foot lot at the rear of their property “near the corporate limits of the Town of Wilson.” Orren and Hancy Best lived at the heart of Grabneck, and Zion Hall was one of at least eight African-American Odd Fellows lodges active in Wilson County in the early 20th century.

Strickland Chapel buys a lot.

Deed book 81, page 259, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

On 18 May 1908, for $125.00, Dianah Rountree sold E.S. Koonce, Washington Cox, and Wash Little, the trustees of the “ole original Freewill Baptist church of Wilson” (also known as Strickland Chapel) a parcel of land on the southwest side of Manchester Street at Suggs Street extension adjacent to Rountree and Daniel Vick‘s property. 

Strickland Chapel? A church at the corner of Manchester and Suggs? I have never heard of the church, and the location is now occupied by a concrete-block duplex built in the 1950s. 

The intersection is beyond the bounds of the 1908 and 1913 Sanborn fire insurance map, but on the 1922 map the building appears and is marked as an A.M.E. Zion church. 

I found a reference in 1929 to a Presbyterian church known as Strickland Chapel, but it was a white congregation and does not appear to be related to the church above. 

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  • E.S. Koonce — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cox Washington lab h 545 Stantonsburg
  • Washington Cox — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Little Washington lab h 600 Stemmery
  • Wash Little — in the 1908 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Koontz Ellis farmer b 506 Grace

The Locuses sell a lot to Taylor’s Chapel.

Deed book 86, page 97, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

On 14 December 1909, John and Delphia Taylor Locus(t) conveyed an 1800 square foot parcel to Willis Ellis, Joe Eatman, and Phoebe Rountree, trustees of Taylor’s Chapel Christ’s Disciples Church. The land was on “the north side of the path leading from the Nash Road to the old home place of Ira Howard, deceased” and was adjacent to land owned by John Locus and Ruffin Watson (“the James Howard tract”).

The land was to “be used for a church in the name of the Christ’s Disciples Church,” and to return to John Locust and his heirs after such use ended. 

[There is a Taylor’s Chapel Pentecostal Holiness in Nashville, N.C., today. I do not believe it is a related church.]

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  • Willis Ellis — in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Mary Ellis, 34, and children Willis, 12, Walter, 9, William, 8, Henry, 5, and Lou, 4.
  • Joe Eatman
  • Phoebe Rountree — in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: widow Phebee Rountree, 59, farmer, and children Richard, 19, Warren, 17, Ardenia, 15, and Martha, 12. 
  • Ira Howard — in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: farmer Ira Howard, 45; wife Harett, 44, and son William, 18.
  • James Howard– in the 1900 census of Taylor township, Wilson County: next door to Ira Howard, farmer James Howard, 20, and wife Cisco, 20.